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For example, boxes of hot sauce from Louisiana are stuffed into metal boxes called containers at the factory. That container is put onto a truck chassis or a railroad flat car and moved to a port.


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There the container is lifted off the vehicle and lifted onto a ship. At the receiving port, the process is reversed. Intermodal transportation uses few laborers and speeds up the delivery time. Over 95 percent of the cargo cargo The freight goods, products carried by a ship, barge, train, truck or plane.

Reducing black carbon from ports and marine vessels

The focus of the Ports Primer is on marine ports rather than inland water or land ports. However, many considerations related to marine ports may also apply at inland water or land ports. American ports port The harbor area where ships are docked. It may be difficult to tell visually where the control of a port authority ends. For example, port authorities do not control private terminals except in as much as landlord ports can impose lease-based controls on private terminal tenants , military operations and industrial facilities located in or around port facilities.

Definition 3: Semi-autonomous semi-independent port authority: a public body subject to certain state controls. Definition 4: Bi-state or regional port authorities: a public body created by agreement between two or more states. Definition 5: Port authorities with limited agency or power: a public body limited to certain actions such as bonding. Definition 6: Divisions of state, county or municipal government: a government department. Definition 7: Independent port or navigation districts: entities that function as "special purpose" political subdivisions of a state with defined geographic boundaries over which they have authority.

These figures are significant, given that the value of all international trade accounts for nearly 30 percent of the U. As long as the labor and property are located in the United States, the supplier workers, owners may be either U. To meet increasing consumer demands, more ships are calling at U. In many communities, ports are significant sources of local employment.

Environmental Impacts of International Shipping

Ports are employers and also support employment in related sectors such as trucking and rail transportation. In addition, port activity generated over 23 million jobs in related sectors and through their overall economic impact on the surrounding communities.

How We Can Make Ports More Sustainable — And Why it Matters

Ports handle a range of commodity mixes. Some ports focus on one type of commodity; some are more diversified. Ports serve as important transportation hubs that facilitate goods movement goods movement The distribution of freight including raw materials, parts and finished consumer products by all modes of transportation including marine, air, rail and truck.

As illustrated in the figure below, ports can connect goods to consumers through our highway system, railroads, air transit and domestic marine highways water transportation routes. The laptop or phone you are using to read this article, the clothes you are wearing, the glass of juice you may be drinking … almost all of these items likely arrived at your door in part by ship.

The journey these ships take is marked by countless stops at ports around the world. This growing reliance on international goods has helped make transportation the fastest growing cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Ship emissions are projected to increase between 50 and percent by Because ports are critical points of connection where cargo is passed between ships, railroads and trucks, improving their sustainability will trickle down to every element of the global supply chain.

Likewise, by assessing port sustainability, we can identify which parts of the chain need fixing.

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But in order to do that, we must first identify what a sustainable port looks like. In a world where the sustainability label can be placed on everything from clothing brands to agriculture to energy sources, defining and agreeing upon sustainable practices can be tricky. This is where data and statistics play a necessary role.

In order to come to a consensus on large-scale sustainability objectives, like the UN Sustainable Development Goals, scientists often create an index by gathering statistics relevant to their area of interest and picking out pieces of data that may indicate sustainable performance.

For my final project in the Environmental Sustainability Indicators: Construction and Use class, which I took last spring, I drafted an index showing one way to quantify the sustainability of ports. A index to measure the sustainability of shipping ports, proposed by Isabela Brown, a student in the M.

How Container Ships Work

Sustainability Science program. Image courtesy Isabela Brown. Ships contribute a significant amount of waste to the ocean. The shipping industry is responsible for 20 percent of all marine litter, while some 34 percent of ship garbage ends up being discharged at sea.


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In addition to garbage, ships discharge sewage, oily waste and chemicals, which can harm ecosystems. They release ballast water, which can spread invasive species. When port waste reception services are inadequate or missing, ship crews are more likely to dump waste overboard to reduce weight, thereby harming marine ecosystems. The amount and variety of waste facilities that a given port offers is a good first indicator of sustainability. Now we have a goal and a metric for determining how far along we are to achieving that goal. When we have multiple indicators that collectively represent sustainability, we can see how well ports do with regards to each sustainability goal.

Then we can statistically combine these results into a composite index to rank their sustainability holistically, as I did in my project.

This way, we can use data to accurately compare ports for many different, but concrete, sustainability targets. For example, there are multiple ways that ports can offer cleaner energy alternatives to reduce the carbon footprint and emissions of ships. Due to their large capacity, ships are ultimately the most fuel efficient method of transporting cargo. Not surprisingly, most choose to run on the cheapest fuel available, which is also the dirtiest.

They commonly use heavy, high-sulfur residual oil, sometimes called bunker fuel, left over after gasoline, diesel and other lighter fuels are extracted during the refining process. This dirty fuel is loaded with particulates, and their associated pollutants such as NOx and PM2. The good news is that in , an historic international regulation will go into effect that will mandate the use of low-sulfur, cleaner fuels. Yet, so far these cleaner fuels have only been mandated in Emission Control Areas that have been set up over the last 20 years around North America, the Caribbean, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Even in these regulated areas, when ships idle in port over long periods of time, the concentrations of their emissions can harm human and ecosystem health. Although ships turn off their main engines, which they use to move through the water, when they idle they still need power for heating, cooling, ventilation, cranes, and other functions. Ships often spend between one to three days at anchor and the pollution that they emit during this time can be incredibly harmful to near-port communities.

And a typical cruise ship is much worse than other marine vessels. Because it is essentially a hotel fueled by dirty oil, one combusts about 20 tons of fuel while portside, which can produce the same amount of emissions as 35, trucks idling for 10 hours. This dockside activity has been shown to cause approximately , premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease and about 14 million childhood asthma cases each year.

By offering clean power alternatives, ports can be environmental stewards and protect their near port communities. By doing so, ships can use electrical energy, which can be sourced from renewable or clean sources, for dock-side needs. Therefore the amount of OPS a port offers is a good indicator of its environmental stewardship and sustainability.

When ports are busy, automated systems that tell other arriving ships to slow down can save time and money, and cut pollution. Ports can also drastically decrease ship fuel usage by becoming more efficient.